James Cameron returns with an absorbing and visually stunning tale filled with existentialism, goodness and vapidity. In other words, Cameron has not changed much since he last made feature films back in the 1990s; the subtle and unsubtle walk hand in hand until Cameron's industrious and engaging direction eventually makes the film irresistible.
Early on, it is easy to find objections to Avatar, despite the fascinating world of Pandora and the creative idea of the avatars. The human way of life is portrayed just as pessimistic and banally as in Cameron's 1980s films, with all the usual archetypes and stereotypical power struggles between the "thinkers" and the "doers". To representatives of modern western culture, this depiction borders on the offensive, as Cameron tries to undermine the culture and system of which he himself is a product, through a very dichotomic and unnuanced presentation.
But as soon as you've been able to accept the film's obvious weaknesses, the sheer inspiration and creativity of the story and visuals will more than make up for them. Cameron makes his tribute to nature and tribal life come alive by giving the Na'vis real individuality and by presenting some of the most breathtaking CGI footage ever created. The images have an incredible sense of space and colour, which really gives Avatar value as sensible, environmental escapism. The 3D version of the film might well be the best use of this technology yet. The acting is so-so, and it might just be fitting that it is at its best when we follow the Na'vis.